The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Strategic victimhood in Sudan

A very unusual op-ed in the NYT slams Darfur activists and the media for not giving a better picture of the real situation in Darfur and Sudan conflict in general. This is not a topic I know much about -- although I've known for a while, from very-well informed diplomatic sources, that the situation is a lot more complicated than it appears -- but the arguments presented are thought-provoking, not only about Sudan but about the media's role in presenting conflicts:
Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations. The region's blacks, painted as long-suffering victims, actually were the oppressors less than two decades ago — denying Arab nomads access to grazing areas essential to their survival. Violence was initiated not by Arab militias but by the black rebels who in 2003 attacked police and military installations. The most extreme Islamists are not in the government but in a faction of the rebels sponsored by former Deputy Prime Minister Hassan al-Turabi, after he was expelled from the regime. Cease-fires often have been violated first by the rebels, not the government, which has pledged repeatedly to admit international peacekeepers if the rebels halt their attacks.

This reality has been obscured by Sudan's criminally irresponsible reaction to the rebellion: arming militias to carry out a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. These Arab forces, who already resented the black tribes over past land disputes and recent attacks, were only too happy to rape and pillage any village suspected of supporting the rebels.

In light of janjaweed atrocities, it is natural to romanticize the other side as freedom fighters. But Darfur's rebels do not deserve that title. They took up arms not to stop genocide — which erupted only after they rebelled — but to gain tribal domination.
You really have to read the whole (short) thing to get the point, especially as all of this has been very much under-reported.